It's never too early to start guessing what the Houston Texans' final roster will like once the regular season finally starts.
Since the Texans are already contenders, most of what the Texans' final roster will look like is already known. There will be very few dramatic roster battles in training camp.
However, there are some open spots on the roster, and many, many players will be vying to fill those spots. It should be exciting to watch.
Here's what the Texans' final roster should look like once the Texans open the season up against the San Diego Chargers.
(3): Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates, Case Keenum
Analysis: The first two roster spots are set in the stone.
Matt Schaub is the clear starter. And after T.J. Yates' late-season heroics in 2011, he has essentially locked up the backup quarterback job.
It gets tricky after that. The Texans have historically only kept two quarterbacks on their roster, but Case Keenum might force their hand.
Keenum has performed at a very high level, so far this offseason, and if he continues this trend in training camp, then the Texans may feel that they must keep him.
(3): Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Dennis Johnson
Analysis: As with the quarterback position, the Texans' starting and backup running backs are already known. Arian Foster is a superstar, and he is looking to have yet another All-Pro-caliber season.
In 2011, as Foster's backup, Ben Tate had an extraordinary season. Last year, however, Tate struggled with injuries and never made much of an impact on offense. He needs to play much better in 2013 to take some of the pressure off Foster.
The winner of the third-string job is a tossup. Dennis Johnson has the vision and toughness to succeed in the Texans' zone-blocking scheme, but Cierre Wood, Ray Graham and Deji Karim all have just as good a chance as Johnson of claiming the final roster spot.
(1): Greg Jones
Analysis: While the Texans normally prefer to keep more than one fullback on the roster, that will be unnecessary this season.
Greg Jones, who was a Jaguar last season, is the best fullback the Texans have had since Vonta Leach. The past two seasons, the Texans have relied heavily upon James Casey, a talented, versatile fullback.
Casey, however, was not a power fullback. His usefulness went down in short yardage and goal-line situations, so the Texans were forced to keep a second, tougher fullback on the roster.
That will be pointless this season, as Jones is as tough as they come.
(5): Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Keshawn Martin, Lestar Jean, Alan Bonner
Analysis: In 2013, the Texans will boast the most loaded wide receiver core in franchise history. Looking at the players above, there is only one proven player—of course, that is Andre Johnson.
That should tell you just how miserable the receiver depth behind Johnson has been over the past 10 seasons.
However, while DeAndre Hopkins, Keshawn Martin, Lestar Jean and Alan Bonner are all unproven, they are all extremely talented. Hopkins was a first-round pick, Martin is quick and capable of playmaking, Jean boats an Andre Johnson-type body, and Bonner is a more explosive version of Martin.
Watching these four receivers work behind Johnson will be one of the most exciting storylines of the Texans' 2013 season.
*DeVier Posey, who is recovering from a torn Achilles, will likely be placed on the PUP list.
(3): Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham, Ryan Griffin
Analysis: In order for the Texans offense to enjoy success, it needs a tight end who can block and consistently run solid short-to-medium range routes. And, of course, he would need to have dependable hands.
Luckily for the Texans, they have three of those guys.
Owen Daniels is the best of the group; he is the only one who possesses true playmaking ability. He is one of Matt Schaub's must reliable dump-down targets, but he has the athletic talent to pick up yards after the catch.
Garrett Graham is reliable, and his big body makes him an easy target to find in the red zone.
Ryan Griffin, one of the Texans' sixth-round picks, will face a difficult task in making the Texans' roster. He will be competing with Phillip Supernaw and Jake Byrne for the final tight end spot, but his draft status and natural pass-catching ability will likely earn him the spot.
(5): Duane Brown, Derek Newton, Ryan Harris, Brennan Williams, David Quessenberry
Analysis: By far one of the weakest positions on the Texans in terms of depth, Duane Brown is the only player who has proven anything.
Well, he's done more that just prove he belongs. He's a first-team All-Pro tackle and is the anchor of the Texans' offensive line.
Behind Brown, though, the depth is concerning.
Derek Newton started most of last year at right tackle, but he had a fairly miserable season. Ryan Harris, who split time with Newton, wasn't much better.
The Texans drafted Brennan Williams and David Quessenberry to shore up their depth at tackle, and while both rookies certainly have talent, they are not quite ready to start at the NFL level. Going forward, though, Williams and Quessenberry will likely play big roles in the future for the Texans offense.
(3): Wade Smith, Brandon Brooks, Ben Jones
Analysis: Three guards?! Only three guards?! This is ridiculous!
Well, while it does sound ridiculous, keeping only three guards on the final roster actually makes sense for the Texans. For starters, it will allow them to keep an extra player at another position who could actually contribute to a Texans' special teams squad that had a terrible season last year.
And second, the Texans have multiple versatile tackles who could easily play at guard in a pinch, most notably the two rookies, David Quessenberry and Brennan Williams.
Both have the size and strength to play on the interior line in the Texans' zone-blocking scheme, and they both can provide valuable depth at the guard position.
So, even though it would appear that the Texans would have an extreme weakness at the guard position, if they only keep three of them, the versatility of their guards should offset that concern.
Now for the actual guards.
Wade Smith is the starter at left guard, and after a season of watching Ben Jones start at right guard, Brandon Brooks will now likely claim the honors. Brooks has slimmed down significantly from last season, and he is now in shape to preserve enough energy throughout the entire game.
Jones will be a valuable backup, as his starting experience should allow him to fill in seamlessly in case any of the starters suffer an injury.
(1): Chris Myers
Analysis: This one is fairly obvious.
Chris Myers is the second-most important player on the Texans' offensive line, behind Duane Brown. The Pro Bowl center executes the Texans' zone-blocking scheme to perfection, allowing Arian Foster to find huge holes to run through.
And since Ben Jones' natural position is center, there is no reason to keep an extra center on the roster.
(5): J.J. Watt, Antonio Smith, Jared Crick, Tim Jamison, Delano Johnson
Analysis: One of the most stacked positions on the Texans' roster, the talented defensive ends are led by the best defensive player in the NFL—J.J. Watt.
Watt had an absolutely incredible season last year, and he completely revolutionized how the 3-4 defensive end position is played.
And playing opposite of Watt is Antonio Smith, a player who would easily be the best 3-4 defensive end on many other rosters. Smith is a great pass-rusher; his quick first step allows him to easily beat slow-footed offensive linemen.
Jared Crick and Tim Jamison are both reliable backups, and Crick, who is fully healthy now, has the potential to become a starting defensive end in the near future.
Delano Johnson is a project, but the Texans love his athleticism, and by having him switch from outside linebacker to defensive end, the Texans are clearly trying to find a way to keep him on the roster.
(2): Earl Mitchell, Terrell McClain
Analysis: From how the coaches are speaking, per an article on the team's website, Earl Mitchell has already locked up the starting nose tackle job—and for good reason.
Mitchell is the only nose on the Texans' roster with in-game experience. And he has a lot of it. Behind Mitchell, the competition for the backup job should be ferocious.
Terrell McClain is currently the favorite, but Chris Jones and Ra'Shon "Sunny" Harris are close on his heels.
(5): Brooks Reed, Whitney Mercilus, Sam Montgomery, Trevardo Williams, Bryan Braman
Analysis: Perhaps, the least controversial positional unit, the five players listed above are all essentially guaranteed a spot on the roster.
Brooks Reed is a proven starter, and Whitney Mercilus will be given an opportunity to prove he deserves his first-round draft selection, as the departure of Connor Barwin in free agency elevated Mercilus to a starting position.
Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams were drafted in the third and fourth round, respectively, and the the Texans really want to see positive production from the two rookies.
Bryan Braman is a special teams beast; he is clearly the best special teamer on the Texans' roster.
(4): Brian Cushing, Darryl Sharpton, Tim Dobbins, Cameron Collins
Analysis: Looking at the players listed above, it's no small wonder why so many fans are pushing for Brooks Reed to be moved to inside linebacker.
Behind Brian Cushing—who, you know, happens to be rehabbing from a torn ACL, the Texans' depth at inside linebacker is more than just concerning. It's terrifying.
Darryl Sharpton, the likely starter next to Cushing, gets injured so often he spends more time rehabbing than he does playing football. And that is not a joke. Sharpton has been plagued with serious injury issues throughout his whole career, and it's a rare time when he manages to stay healthy for the majority of a season.
Tim Dobbins is a solid player, but he's really only effective in short yardage and goal-line situations. He's a thumper who attacks running backs, but his coverage on tight ends is fairly miserable. He can't be trusted as a starter.
Cameron Collins spent the majority of last season on the Texans' practice squad, so while he understands the Texans' defensive scheme, it is unknown whether he's actually ready to contribute at the NFL level or not.
Maybe Brooks Reed should be moved to inside linebacker.
(6): Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Brice McCain, Brandon Harris, Roc Carmichael, A.J. Bouye
Analysis: This is one of the strongest cornerback units in Texans' history.
After struggling with injuries the majority of last season, Johnathan Joseph is fully healthy and ready to return to his 2011 shutdown form.
And Kareem Jackson, who spent the first two years being rightfully blamed for all of the Texans' secondary issues, broke out in 2012. He looked like a completely different cornerback—he was brimming with a never-before-seen confidence—and he is now on the verge of stardom.
Brice McCain was one of the top slot cornerbacks in the NFL in 2011, and now that he is fully recovered from the foot injury that landed him on the season-ending IR, he should be back and better than ever.
Brandon Harris was thrown into the fire last season, but he improved steadily every game, and he should be prepared to contribute right away.
Roc Carmichael is an intriguing prospect who has stuck with the Texans for the past several seasons. And A.J. Bouye has been stellar, so far this offseason, and if he can continue his hot streak in training camp, the Texans will likely reward him with a roster spot.
(4): Ed Reed, Danieal Manning, D.J. Swearinger, Shiloh Keo
Analysis: After Glover Quin left for the Detroit Lions in free agency, Texans' fans were sent into a state of despair about the team's situation at safety. Danieal Manning was the only proven safety on the roster. The other two were Shiloh Keo and Eddie Pleasant, who are both extremely inexperienced.
But then, somehow, the Texans' emerged stronger at the safety position than they were the previous season. They signed the future Hall of Famer Ed Reed in free agency, and while he may have lost a step in recent seasons, his ball-hawking ability still causes nightmares for opposing quarterbacks.
And then, the Texans drafted highly rated safety D.J. Swearinger in the second round of the NFL draft. Swearinger, who is a ferocious hitter, is the future of the Texans at the safety position. He'll also essentially be a starter for the Texans defense this season, as Wade Phillips loves to run defensive subsets that require three safeties on the field.
Shiloh Keo has been prone to giving up big plays, but he is a valuable special teams contributor. And the Texans' coaching staff is really high on his defensive potential—for whatever reason.
(3): Randy Bullock, Shane Lechler, Jon Weeks
Analysis: The Texans' special teams unit will certainly will be fun to watch in 2013.
Randy Bullock, after spending the entirety of last season on the IR with a "serious" groin injury, will be the Texans' place-kicker. It will be interesting to see if the fifth-round pick lives up to his expectations.
Shane Lechler, one of the best punters in NFL history, was signed in the free-agent market, and he should certainly help the Texans win field-position battles.
And, of course, you can't forget Jon Weeks. The dependable long snapper has been delivering balls to holders reliably for his entire career.
Case Keenum, A.J. Bouye, Dennis Johnson, Ryan Griffin, Shiloh Keo
Analysis: If the five players above make the roster, it will be because they either narrowly outperformed their competition or performed so well that the coaching staff couldn't stand giving them up.
The latter applies to Case Keenum, as he will have to change the coaching staff's philosophy on only keeping two quarterbacks by playing ridiculously well during training camp.
A.J. Bouye, as mentioned before, has had an excellent offseason, thus far, and the coaching staff will have to reward him with a roster spot if he keeps it up. If his play falters, though, expect the Texans to give up on him as quickly as they fell in love with him.
Dennis Johnson and Ryan Griffin will both be locked into tight training camp competitions, and if they do win them, it will only be by a small margin.
Shiloh Keo has been consistently terrible throughout his career on defense, but the coaching staff likes him, and all he has to do to make the roster is beat out Eddie Pleasant.
Eddie Pleasant, Zach Boren, Cody White, Cierre Wood, Chris Jones
The five players listed above all have excellent chances of making the final roster, but currently, they are sitting on the wrong side of the fence.
The coaching staff is high on Shiloh Keo, which will likely doom Eddie Pleasant.
Zach Boren is a bruising fullback who can viciously attack defensive linemen and linebackers, but the Texans have little use for two of the same type of fullbacks with Greg Jones already on the roster. If Boren proves to be a valuable specials teams commodity, though, the Texans may be forced to find someway to get him on the roster.
Cody White is a versatile guard, but as mentioned earlier, the Texans might not have a reason to keep any more guards on the roster.
Cierre Wood is one of the favorites to win the third-string running back job, and he can easily beat out Dennis Johnson. But currently, Johnson seems like a perfect fit.
Chris Jones was drafted in the sixth round, and the coaching staff certainly loves his relentless motor. Terrell McClain, however, is the favorite to win the backup job, and the Texans don't have enough room on the roster for three nose tackles. Expect to see Jones on the practice squad.